Thinking of Renovating? Read This First.

Thinking of Renovating? Read This First.

By Joy WoodRise Writer
Apr 3, 2018

So you practice the 100-mile diet, you shop local, get most of your clothing from swaps, and have been known to carry a recyclable container for days until you find the proper bin. When it comes to walking the sustainable path, you’re treading it gently, or so you think. But consider this: when it comes to something like our actual homes, shouldn’t they be a reflection of our values? Some, like blogger Katie Wagner, say yes. So if you’re planning a spring renovation, take some time to weigh the options and ask: does it benefit your health, wealth, and soul?

Your Home is Less Than Perfect? Renovate!

In Canada, home renovations have become something of a national pastime. With a real estate market that is equal parts scorching hot as it is resilient, it’s no surprise that Canadians are downright obsessed with our homes. Beyond the legislating, grumbling, #donthave1million, and opinions for miles, there remains the fact that for many, homeownership is still a big part of the agenda. And for those who are lucky enough to get on the property ladder (thanks to smart planning, or the bank of mom and dad), and aren’t buying new, they are likely facing the question: ‘so, when are you renovating?’, even as their realtor is packing up the ‘for sale’ sign. But what if, as Katie Wagner asks, there is actually nothing wrong with your home? 

What Does Your McMansion Say About You?

The question Wagner poses is definitely a valid one in cities like Vancouver, where the trend for new over old is in full swing and charming character homes are disappearing at an alarming rate. The craze for big, brand new houses, wryly dubbed ‘McMansions’, began in the city in the 80s and 90s, and today these pink and grey stucco monster homes pepper the landscape. In retrospect, they haven’t held up much better than their heritage counterparts; they tend to suffer from mold issues on the wet west coast. 

Obviously, there are necessary repairs and renovations that need to take place during the life of any home. From a health perspective, there is no question that certain materials used in older builds need to be removed safely. Got asbestos, mold, or structural issues? By all means, call in the renovation professionals. Feeling like less of a person because the shag carpet in the basement triggers a deep and abiding sense of personal shame? It might be better to call a therapist. 

Renovations are the New Black

The renovation market in Canada is no small business, according to a report by Toronto based real estate consultant Altus Group, renovation spending in Canada was set to hit 72.7 billion dollars in 2017, and is predicted to climb to 74 billion in 2018. But the priority of a lot of homeowners to take on often large-scale renovations needs to be considered in terms of what is driving the behavior, and what actual concrete benefits are derived from it. It’s easy to get swept up in the ‘love it or list it’ craze, modeled after the popular HGTV show of the same name, where homes are evaluated on whether or not they can be renovated to suit the current denizen’s vision, or whether it needs to be abandoned and tossed on the market while the owners seek out fresh new digs, renovations seem like the answer to any, even minor, dissatisfaction with a home.

The Actual House is the Investment, Not the Appliances or Today’s Stainless is Tomorrow’s Avocado

From a financial perspective, if a home is viewed as an investment, how much sense does it make to renovate? The home renovation market seems to be dedicated to the underlying assumption that even moderately dated homes need to be redone. The average homeowner is surrounded by home renovation stores, shows, experts, and DIY professionals. The subtle messaging? If your home hasn’t been updated it must mean something about YOU AS A PERSON, right? Well, not really. 

The truth is: renovations are expensive, they’re inconvenient and they are even a little distressing. Sure, the ultimate goal is to refresh and update your space, not to mention the underlying hope that it will improve your mood, and make life seem more fashionable and interesting (along with making a great backdrop for your Insta shots). But beyond that, it’s safe to say that anyone that has actually undergone the renovation process (and it is a process) can attest to the fact that it caused a low-level background type of stress that doesn’t let up until your imported, rustic, Russian Olive wood switch plate covers FINALLY clear customs and are happily settled in their new digs.

And then there is that sneaking feeling that creeps up afterlife does NOT seem remarkably easier, lighter, brighter or the kids more manageable. The underlying promise of every renovation is that life is somehow going to be better afterward. The reality? Obviously, it’s not, more magazine-worthy, perhaps, but not more manageable.  

Your Home Should Reflect Your Values

There is a subtle irony here in that if someone’s values are in line with sustainability, and they renovate simply to create a more trendy, minimalist environment, it’s actually a highly unsustainable habit. The construction waste, the introduction and use of new materials, and the seemingly endless nature of renovations are part of the larger circle of consumerism. And if the values of minimalism are less consumerism, more focus on one’s interior landscape and a life that is lighter, less encumbered by the clutter of our impulse buys, our past and our ‘gotta have it’ mentality, then spending upwards of $10,000 to get there seems … counterintuitive at best.

Once we view our homes, and a potential renovation, as being a reflection of our values, it casts the entire process in a new light. Renovations can be assessed from the angles of health, wealth, and soul, and there’s no doubt that some updates are unavoidable. Using sustainable materials, and a design team that shares your vision for the process is key. But perhaps if more people considerations as a prequalifying process of sorts to go through before planning a renovation. It could include a scan of our current emotional state and digging up the real reason we want to renovate. Do we actually need to overhaul our kitchen – or do we think the new kitchen is going to make us feel better?

retro kitchen
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